No election rigging, please!

If electoral votes were awarded by district

If electoral votes were awarded by district

Many Republicans, including RNC Chair Reince Priebus, think that it would be a good idea to change the way we award electoral college votes.  A state is allocated electoral votes based on the number of Representatives and Senators they have.   So Maine, with two Congresspeople and two Senators, gets four votes.   In most states whoever wins the state gets all of that state’s electoral votes.

Republicans would like to change that to award electoral votes by district, which is currently the practice in Maine and Nebraska.   So in Maine one vote goes to the winner of the first district, and one to the winner of the second.   The final two go to whoever wins the most popular votes in the state.

However, there is a dark side to this idea.   While Maine and Nebraska choose their system in a bi-partisan manner, without one party wanting to use a change in rules to rig the election in their favor,  plans now are pushed only by the GOP with the specific goal of trying to improve their chance to win the Presidency, even if they lose the popular vote.

The real 2012 results

The real 2012 results

Simply, the purpose is to undermine the democratic will of the people so one party can get and hold on to power regardless of whether or not they have popular support.  That is the kind of plot one expects to see in third world states rather than a country that claims to be the world’s greatest democracy.

As the maps above shows, even though President Obama easily won the popular vote by a four point margin, with a hefty 332 electoral votes, awarding them by district would have given Mitt Romney the Presidency.   Democratic districts tend to be urban and overwhelmingly Democratic – sometimes over 90%, some precincts get no Republican votes!    Republican districts in the suburbs and rural areas have a significant number of Democrats, rarely below 30%.

Another problem has been gerrymandering.   That’s when the party in power redraws the districts with the intent of using district boundaries to make it easier for their party to win.     Consider: the Democrats got far more votes for their candidates for the House of Representatives than did the Republicans.   But the GOP easily maintained their majority of seats.

Virigina's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell nixed the plan - for now.

Virigina’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell nixed the plan – for now.

Virginia was the first state to seriously consider changing how it awards electoral votes after the 2012 election.   The Republican party there hatched a plan to not only award electoral votes by district, but to give the two extra votes each state has (based on two Senators) to the person who won the most districts rather than to however won the popular vote.   That would be different than the Nebraska and Maine systems, and mean that although President Obama won Virginia by 3%, he would have gotten only 4 electoral votes to Romney’s 9!   Again, that’s the kind of shenanigans you’d expect in some banana republic.

Wisconsin politics has already been poisoned by partisan scabbles

Wisconsin politics has already been poisoned by partisan scabbles

The Virginia plan appears dead for now, thanks to opposition from two Republican State Senators and the Governor, but many said they didn’t like the timing rather than the idea.   Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan are also considering such action – all of it very partisan and with intense opposition from the other side.  Those are also “blue” states in which awarding by district would give the Republicans a majority of electoral votes.

What would the ramifications of the change be?   If a few “blue” states changed their system then it would increase the chance for a Republican to win the Presidency in 2016, even if he or she fails to win the popular vote.   But just as the cuts in early voting led to a backlash against the Republicans in states like Florida, the unintended consequences of such a move could hurt the GOP.

Democrats would be forced to compete more intensively in areas they now cede to the Republicans.   That could ultimately expand the Democratic party and endanger currently safe Republican House members.   Beyond that, state politics would be injected with more anger and partisanship.

One can imagine that Democrats would undo the changes if they managed to get power, and the issue could make it harder for parties to cooperate in times where problem solving is necessary.   It is time for Republican leaders to say that changing the way we elect our President is a serious matter and should not be done on a partisan basis to try to use the rules to rig elections.

"We can't be the stupid party," Bobby Jindal pleaded

“We can’t be the stupid party,” Bobby Jindal pleaded

The Republicans should follow the lead of people like Bobby Jindal who recognize that the party needs to appeal to the majority, rather than looking to change the laws in order to grab power.   It is a sign of desperation that some Republicans would even consider trying to change the rules so they can win power even if they can’t win vote.   It is also an opening for people like Jindal to take the lead and recast the Republican party to be able to compete to win a majority of votes, not just electoral districts.   America needs two strong, competitive parties.

  1. #1 by lbwoodgate on January 26, 2013 - 22:12

    “It is a sign of desperation that some Republicans would even consider trying to change the rules so they can win power even if they can’t win vote. “

    We would indeed then be a true banana republic

  2. #2 by Snoring Dog Studio on January 27, 2013 - 09:56

    And people even consider this an option? To distort the process for the gain of the White House? It isn’t so far off then to believe that Republicans would contemplate a dictatorship if they could gain control. Of course, when you represent the fringe elements of society and when you can’t come up with any good ideas that don’t alienate the majority, this is what people resort to.

    • #3 by pino on January 28, 2013 - 23:12

      To distort the process for the gain of the White House? It isn’t so far off then to believe that Republicans would contemplate a dictatorship if they could gain control.

      After the 2004 elections, North Carolina toyed with the idea of allocating electoral votes not on the number of votes in North Carolina but rather by the popular vote in the country as a whole. That is, even if the republican won NC but lost the popular vote, North Carolina would allocate it’s votes to the democrat.

      But really, is allocating ALL the states electoral votes to one candidate or the other really the best way? If we aren’t going to have a popular vote winner, congressional districts makes some sense.

  3. #4 by Norbrook on January 27, 2013 - 10:15

    It is a sign of desperation that some Republicans would even consider trying to change the rules so they can win power even if they can’t win vote.

    It’s not just that, it’s been their pattern for the past election cycle. All the legislation aimed at “voter fraud,” for example. Besides being a virtually non-existent problem to begin with, it was very obviously aimed at suppressing the vote in various Democratic precincts.

  4. #5 by a reader on January 31, 2013 - 14:41

    One has to expect the GOP to counter-troll the Left at this point with Obama attacking gun rights, pushing amnesty and threatening our presence abroad with Hagel. But unlike the nothing-burger you’ve mentioned here, Obama is poised to inflict real damage on the nation in blind pursuit of a 2014 congressional victory.

    • #6 by Scott Erb on January 31, 2013 - 16:27

      Obama received the country damaged. Damaged by high debt, an economic bubble bursting (after Bush increased debt during a boom – that is economic insanity), a war that went bad and harmed US interests abroad and in the Mideast, and little in place. Obama’s actions have righted the economy, regained our status in the world, and has moved us towards 21st Century policies. I think the GOP is still in the hands of people whose minds are in the last century. That will pass – the times are much different. The country is different.

      • #7 by a reader on February 2, 2013 - 10:52

        Sorry, the US has been in a depression since 2008 thanks to the economic policies of those whose minds are stuck in the last century. Obama is moving us towards fascism, which, last I checked, was also last century’s idea.

      • #8 by Scott Erb on February 2, 2013 - 12:59

        Please read the comment policy. You are already in violation of it by not using a proper e-mail. If you are here to troll or not add real substance to the discussion, your posts will be deleted. You will see many conservative posters – they make arguments and engage in a good give and take. It’s not about what your views are, it’s how you express them and avoiding personal insults.

  5. #9 by brucetheeconomist on February 17, 2013 - 03:53

    Maybe a straight up national popular vote is the alternative. If the Republicans would sell this setup to increase their chances of winning an electoral victory, they’d do it as more democratic, even as it might be the opposite. So out-democratize them.

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